A few months back with what seemed like two months of work left to do, I publicly committed myself to launching jMockups in four weeks. The number of things I wanted to get done prior to launching was daunting, but I desperately needed to get the product out there and in the hands of actual users to start collecting feedback.
How’d it go? I didn’t launch it in four weeks; I launched in less than three.
Public accountability is a powerful thing. Sebastian Marshal writes about his own experience:
If I hadn’t set this goal and been accountable publicly, to my friend and to everyone who reads here, I wouldn’t have done it in two weeks. Honestly – I’m pretty internally motivated, but I’ve had a lot of stuff going on the last two weeks, it wouldn’t have happened. But it did happen, largely because I was publicly accountable.
This productivity hack that works especially well for me. I’m an INTJ on the Meyers Briggs type indicator and one of our defining characteristics is the value we place on competence. By publicly committing myself to launch, I put my own competence on the line so I did what it took to meet the goal. Practically this meant postponing a lot of the things on my todo list until after the launch, working some long nights and weekends, and taking a week off of work.
Publicly committing myself worked well for me once, so I’m trying it again.
I spent most of 2010 building. I launched Preceden in late January and continued working on it through May. In June I started working on jMockups and launched it in late October. My focus in 2010 (and largely 2009 and 2008) was on learning and building. I knew I eventually wanted to make money off of the apps, but money wasn’t my primary goal.
I’ll be with my current job until October 2012 so I can’t pursue this full time just yet. Because I have a day job I’ve never had to rely on my web app income to survive. It’s always been like Oh, I had another sign up. That’s nice. That’s got to change.
October 2010–a mere 21 months away–will approach fast. In order for web app development/entrepreneurship to be viable long term, I have to start making more money. My true passion lies in building things–not money–but without money I can’t spend my time building things.
I don’t have exact numbers (which is part of the problem), but Preceden currently makes about $500/month and costs $70 to operate. jMockups makes $24/month (whohoo!) and costs about $200/month to operate (doh!). Taken together, I’m making about $250/month.
It’s not entirely fair to value the apps in terms of their current profits, but that’s obviously a big part of it. Preceden targets a small niche and has a small goal: be the best timeline tool. jMockups targets a large niche and has an ambitious goal: improve the way people design websites. Long term, jMockups has the potential to be a home run; Preceden doesn’t.
With that in mind:
My goal is to make $4,000 per month from Preceden and jMockups by the end of 2011.
That’s about 16x what they make now. If a public commitment isn’t scary, it’s probably not ambitious enough. And since this is terrifying, I figure it’s a good number to shoot for.
I’ll make monthly progress updates starting at the end of January.
Preceden has a marketing problem. It’s is a quality tool that has a lot of happy users, but not enough people know about it. I need to get more people to the site and need more of them to convert to paying customers. My plan with Preceden is to start marketing it heavily (via things like AdWords), perform lots of A/B testing, and optimize the hell out of it by way of extensive analysis. If I can get Preceden to a point where outbound marketing has a measurable positive ROI, I’ll be in really good shape.
jMockups has a product problem. The tool is good, but not great. Trying to change the way people design websites is hard (I probably should have picked a more narrow niche to start with, but that’s another story). I’ve been adding two or three new features a week since it launched in October, but I haven’t spent much time on the other things it takes to create a successful web product. For example, there’s currently way too much friction from when a user arrives at the site and to when they create a mockup that they’re happy with. And it shows in the usage metrics (75% of new users create 1 mockup and never come back). In 2011, I’ll continue working on the product but I’ll place a stronger emphasis on usability, education, and building a community. The revenue should follow from doing these things well.
I have a sole founder problem. But not really. I like the independence of working alone, but having someone else to build with and bounce ideas off of would be great. I’m not going to spend a lot of time actively searching for a cofounder, but if the opportunity presents itself I’d definitely give it a shot. (Interested? Drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org)
So here’s to 2011. I don’t know how things are going to turn out, but hopefully with this public commitment they’ll turn out a little bit better than they otherwise would have.